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Apple and SAP last week announced an agreement to create applications for the iPhone and iPad using SAP's HANA data management platform as well as an iOS software development kit and training academy for outside developers and customers.
The move marks Apple's latest attempt to break through to the enterprise market and comes at a challenging time for the iPhone and sluggish sales for the tablet category across the industry.
The deal will transform how the iPhone and iPad are used in the enterprise world by combining SAP's expertise in business software with the innovation and security of iOS, Apple CEO Tim Cook said.
It will empower SAP's more than 2.5 million developers to build native apps that fully leverage the SAP HANA cloud platform and tap into capabilities that only the iOS mobile apps can deliver, he added.
"Mobile apps, built natively, are an important aspect of digital transformation," SAP spokesperson Scott Behles said. "The apps we are building will help to demonstrate what end-to-end digital transformation, from core to edge can look like."
Apple was a logical choice for a mobile enterprise partner, as 98 percent of the Fortune 500 deploys iOS devices today, he told the E-Commerce Times. SAP will continue to work with its other mobile device partners and provide customers with choices.
The companies plan to deliver an SAP HANA Cloud Platform software developer kit exclusively for iOS that would give businesses, designers and developers the tools to quickly build their own apps for iOS.
The apps would have access to core data and business processes on SAP S/4 HANA, the company's suite of digital data management software, with iPhone and iPad features including Touch ID, location services and notifications.
SAP will develop a Fiori for iOS design language to help developers build the apps. It also will build native iOS apps for critical business applications for the iPhone and iPad using Apple's Swift programming language.
SAP and Apple are working together on customer projects involving the iOS and HANA platforms, running a series of design-thinking sessions with their joint customers on mobile case needs for the utilities, healthcare and professional services industries in particular, Behles said.
The partnership will be a "great enabler for our digital workforce," said Gary Hayes, senior vice president at CenterPoint Energy.
The agreement comes two years after Apple entered the enterprise market with IBM on a deal to develop apps for the iPhone and iPad, under a system called " IBM MobileFirst for iOS."
The SAP Academy for iOS will begin to roll out, along with the new developer kit and design language, by the end of the year.
IBM is excited about Apple's partnership with SAP as the deal involves two of its most strategic partners and will make it easier for companies to move ahead with their digital transformations, IBM spokesperson Karen Davis told the E-Commerce Times.
Among the various clients using the iOS mobile systems, field service engineers at Bosch BSH are using the Fast Fix app for the iPad, field technicians at RWE Generation are using Asset Care for maintenance, and Etisalat Misr is using the iOS Expert Tech app for in-store customer troubleshooting.
The partnership is an ambitious and potentially significant deal for both companies if they can make it work, said Pund-IT principal analyst Charles King.
There are a couple of contributory factors, notably the agreements that each company has with IBM, he told the E-Commerce Times. "The other potential leverage point is SAP's leadership position in many European businesses, which could lead to Apple finding an easier way into those companies than it might otherwise have been able to achieve on its own."